By: Taylor Ann Bradford ‘19
Over winter break, University of Southern Maine student Ally Little ‘19 was diagnosed with severe Aplastic Anemia, a disorder that inhibits the body’s bone marrow from making new blood cells. After family and friends were tested to see if they could be a donor, none proved to be a match.
However, Little’s story does not end there.
Students from colleges and universities across the East Coast have been teaming up with Be The Match, a global leader in bone marrow transplantation that strives to provide support and resources for patients, to find a match for Little and others with the same disorder.
When Gordon’s Athletic Director Jon Tymann heard of Little’s need, he acted immediately.
In an email to the Gordon community, Tymann commented on how the Drive at the College was initiated, “I forwarded that email to our women’s soccer team asking one simple question…’What can we do?’. The team immediately responded with…’Let’s host a donor drive.”
The College’s Women’s Soccer team partnered with Be The Match, and Heidi Pallo ‘18 took the reigns of organizing the event. The drive was located in Ken Olsen Science Center, a central location that optimized the amount of participants as students and professors walked to and from classes.
Each potential donor was asked to swab their cheeks in four different places to collect cell samples. After the samples are sent to a lab, the tests results will take three to four weeks and that information will then be put into the database. According to BeTheMatch.org, “ We [Be The Match] use this sample to compare specific protein markers, known as human leukocyte antigens (HLA) with HLA markers of patients who need a bone marrow transplant.”
Once a match is found, the patient’s doctor will evaluate whether a non-surgical or surgical procedure is preferred for the specific case.
Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC) donation is a non-surgical procedure where the donor will receive filgrastim, a medication that increases the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream, for five days prior to the donation. The procedure includes drawing of blood from the donor that is sent through a machine that separates the blood-forming cells from the rest of the blood.
A bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure that involves doctors using needles to withdraw the liquid marrow from the back pelvic bone. The donor will not experience pain during the operation because they receive anesthesia.
By the end of the event, more than 200 members of the College community had participated in the drive. While the ultimate goal was to find a match for Little, it is possible that matches for other patients could be found.
Midfielder Taemar Shearer ‘19 said, “I hope it plays into how we as a team, as a whole, we reflect Christ to the people around us and I think this is one way we can do that.”